Category Archives: Missions

Ideas related to missions attitudes, practices, and results.

Finding Calcutta

I thought Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin would be a casual read – some good stories but nothing to write down, meditate about, and share.  I was wrong.  Mary Poplin spent a period of months working beside Mother Teresa.  She is a professor at U of Texas, but writes so even I can understand.  She writes about her inner and outer journey during those months, and I find her insights pierce me.

“Discouragement is a sign of pride.  It shows that I was focused on results, perhaps in my own power, rather than faith and obedience to God’s direction and his responsibility for results.”

As I read, I was faced with my own self.  Her insights on generosity humbled and frightened me, and I realized that I’ve never really sacrificed.  Her experiences of obedience stressed that my faithfulness to God’s present call prepares me for his call later.  If God calls me to wash windows, I must wash them so the angels stop and say, “There is a great window washer, a man faithful to his call.  What a servant of God!”  Obedience is the path to “my Calcutta”.

This book is an easy, but slow, read.  It was easy to understand, but the application of what I understood made me pause in every chapter.  Truth is like that.

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The Class Meeting

The Class Meeting by Kevin M. Watson describes the kind of Christian group that appeals to me.  The format of the Class Meeting is actually from the eighteenth century, and John Wesley is given much of the credit for it’s design and impact.  The principle behind a modern-day Class Meeting is to become doers of the Word, not just learners.  This aligns perfectly with a phrase from Jesus’ Great Commission, “…teaching them to obey everything  I have commanded you.”

It seems to me that most “small groups” in the USA church are either affinity groups based on having fun, or studies based on collecting knowledge.  Class Meetings are designed to enable group member to live more holy lives.  Let me share a few ideas from the book.

  • The class meeting is essential because it is a logical, practical, and proven way to make disciples.  It forms righteous thinking (orthodoxy) and righteous action (orthopraxy).
  • Judgment does not prevail in Class Meetings.  Unless I have asked to be accountable, rarely will the Class Meeting members hold me accountable.  The person who judges me is myself.  The Class Meeting is a weekly self-inventory of my own life.
  • People who protest against the Class Meeting because it may be uncomfortable must admit that comfort isn’t a good indicator of whether something is good for me or whether I need to do it.  Comfort is focused on my desires, not God’s desires.

Honestly, what would happen if the church would actually live what they already know they should do?  The book is designed to enable the reader to start a Class Meeting.  If you are desperate to become more holy, check it out.  If you’re comfortable and want to stay that way,  the book will only make you uncomfortable.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.

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Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Servanthood may be the best Christian book I’ve read on the concept of working in other cultures.

He combines practical and theoretical to create an easy reading book on the why and how of working in cultures different from my own.  Perhaps what I like best is that he isn’t afraid to step on some toes.  The back cover has this bold quote, “Missionaries could more effectively minister if they did not think they were so superior to us.”  Then I opened the cover and started reading a number of true but painful words that led me to several conclusions, a few of which I list below:

  • I can be a person who serves or I can be a servant.  One is something I do, and the other is who I am.
  • Withholding acceptance from a person is rejecting a creation of God.  It is a sin against Jesus.    (1 Corinthians 8:12)
  • Trust can take a long time to establish but very little time to break.
  • I will not have meaningful relationships or effective communication in another culture until I can assemble their seemingly illogical, random actions, and reasoning into the framework of their root beliefs – their world view.

He helped me realize that it may not be prudent to jump right into a new culture and start serving.  He believes several factors need to be considered before I step through culture boundaries to serve: openness, acceptance, trust, learning, understanding.

He opened my eyes to one of the most logical, godly forms of leadership, a style he called “Traditional Tribal Chief”.  (I’ll let you read about that in chapter 11.)  And I admired his critique on Christianity’s infatuation with the topic of leadership.  Here are five thoughts on leadership that I gleaned from the reading:

  1. The Bible talks much more about serving than leading.
  2. I can expect good and bad leaders.
  3. Knowing Scripture doesn’t make me a good leader.
  4. God alone gifts and appoints leaders.  People who are trained as leaders, but not gifted and appointed, cause problems for everyone.
  5. Sometimes I may lead uniquely, but I need to lead Biblically at all times.

I’ve gone on too long.  Suffice it to say that I liked the book.  The time spent reading it was a good investment.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.  Look for “Cross-Cultural Servanthood” as you scroll through the box.

 

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Learning To Listen. Learning To Teach.

The secondary title of this book by Jane Vella is “The Power Of Dialogue In Educating Adults”.  I was already a believer in teaching adults through discussion.  But Vella gave me more details, direction, advice, and models in how to do it better.

For some reason we assume that teaching is something done through lecture.  Granted, there are powerful speakers who can make great points and engage their audience, but the reason for teaching goes beyond entertaining.  Vella wrote, “Lectured-to-adults learn.  They learn that they hold no influence and make no impact on decisions.  They learn that they are expected to be passive.”  But many adults want to do something with what they learn.  They want to carry this new attitude, knowledge, or skill into their future for a change in their life.

I join Vella in being a big fan of learning in small groups, or teams.  Vella says, “Teammates provide coaching, encouragement, accountability, and more.  They often do this better than the teacher.”  I’ll be more faithful to put into practice what I learned if I know someone I respect is going to ask me about my progress.   Not only that, they are going to expect me to ask them how they are doing.  The power of a team is greater than the power of all the individuals added together.

One of the items that Vella revealed to me was teaching that I need to teach people what they want to learn.  “People are naturally excited to learn what they want to know.  (Whereas teachers are excited to teach what they know.)”  She explains the importance of  listening to people before beginning to teach, that often the teacher must learn from the students before teaching them.

I could go on, but let me close with a challenge from Vella, “Our task as dialogue-educators is to make the learning so accountable, engagement so meaningful, and the material so relevant that lecture-style instruction will appear frail in comparison.”

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.

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The Luke 10 Manual

This booklet by Steve & Marilyn Hill took me by surprise.  The fervor, thought, and boldness combined to make me fearful, taken back, captivated, and challenged.

Honestly, it’s written pretty bluntly at times, but I much prefer curtness to the wordy authors who take a chapter to speak a page.  In fact, the Hills did what I think numerous other authors should have done.  They wrote a sixty-page booklet rather than a two hundred page publication.  No, they don’t make money from it, this link takes you to where you can download a free PDF, but I think they made an impact.  I know they have.

Basically, the Hills challenge the trappings added to being a disciple.  They dare me to explain why I go to church rather than be the church.   They challenge academia to train laborers for the harvest fields, not middle management for the denominations.   A quote would give an example of their writing style: “Jesus commanded us to go and we keep asking the world to come to us.”

I haven’t even skimmed the surface of this deep pond.  I challenge you to check the link.  Maybe download the booklet to look it over. I bet if you start, you’ll end up reading on.  I’m not saying I understand all he is proposing, let alone agree with everything.  But I know there are parts of it that I needed to hear, agree with, and do.  I think you’ll find some, too.

 

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